LEARNING CURVE - 1x16 - 1/5
Well, I believe this episode has always polarised viewers and I suspect I'll probably get torn up by some Voyagerians over this, but here goes.
This episode awful. It is easily the weakest of episode of the first season.
Janeway's Victorian Holodrama up until this point has been a minor background element with little screentime. But in this episode, the scene seems to drag on longer than the previous ones. I really just don't get how this insight into Janeway's hobby/past-time is supposed to endear the audience to her, not to mention it making very little sense that a person like Janeway would enjoy this era of human history - an era wound up in pacifying social mores, gender inequality and classism! The dialogue is painful as well. She queries the children on their interests, making the assumption that the girl would only be interested in painting or needlework, rather than Latin or mathematics. And there's the fact that in this holofantasy, Janeway seems happy to play out a maternal role, acting as a de-facto mother for these kids and presumably an eventual love interest for Lord Doucheface or whatever his name. Now I would like to point out that I enjoy Janeway (so far) in her matriarchal
role as Captain of the Starship Voyager. She is a strong woman, bigger than life and seeing her play out some mothering fantasy set an era of social oppression and inequality tries to put forth the stereotype that no matter the woman, all she really wants is a man to stand by and children to take care of. Now, I am not criticising women who CHOOSE to do this; to stay at home and raise their children. It is perfectly valid and commendable that a mother (or father!) would want to stay home and raise their children during their foundation years, rather than palming them off to grandparents or daycare. My criticism is that it seems out of character for Janeway to be in this role (even this early in the show she seems more of a mentor than a mother per-se), and they are attempting to apply this mothering stereotype to her character because well, she's a woman.
Feel free to contest or comment on my reading of this scene, but it leaves me quite unsettled and I expect better of Star Trek than this tripe!
Anyway, that went for longer than I thought it would. Now on to the episode, which doesn't fare much better.
Things kick off with some conflict between some particularly difficult Maquis crew-members, butting heads with other Starfleet officers and Chakotay. The scene where Chakotay decks Dalby asking him if he wants to keep doing things the Maquis way is probably the highlight of the episode. I also can't help but feel that this story should have taken place much earlier in the season. The conflict between the Maquis and Starfleet crews was a potentially interesting aspect of Voyager's first season but it was never used, and leaving this story so late feels quite tacked on. Of course, if this were a well written episode, this wouldn't be so much of a problem.
There's a particularly dumb moment in this episode where Tuvok griefs these three Maquis officers by turning up the gravity on the deck, making their jog more difficult. However you can clearly see OTHER Voyager crew members walking around, so either:
1. Tuvok is a massive dick and turned up the gravity with total disregard for he people were trying work on that deck.
2. Production oversight.
Another dumb moment is Dalby's performance captaining Voyager in the holosimulation. Seriously, if all Maquis ships were commanded by idiots like Dalby, no wonder they failed.
And then we get the complication of this episode, which turns out to be CHEESE. For the purposes of this review, CHEESE will be spelled in all-caps to highlight just how fricking ridiculous this situation is. Not only that, but the solution is beyond belief. Sure, the Doctor tells them the bacteria can be cured by heating the gel-packs - makes perfect sense, but the way they go about this is moronic. Phasers have been shown time and again in Star Trek to be quite variable when it comes to their power output. They can be set to be as strong as a cannon, blasting holes through walls or so mild that they can heat some rocks for warmth. So it would make sense to me if they got everyone on the ship to grab their nearest phaser, set it to simply heat the gel-packs and wait until the infection is eradicated. But no, they don't do that. They set the damn plasma conduits to overheat, severely risking the safety of the ship and crew in the process. I mean, this is equivalent to taking someone who has the flu and dangling them over the edge of a volcano until they are healed.
And then we finish off with a sickeningly pat ending which serves to destroy any possibility of future stories concerning Maquis/SF rivalry. Unless it's something completely contrived.